So, I wanted to put something up today, but I didn’t have anything ready. I have been working on an article that talks about 50 great comic book characters and I thought I would answer a question that I have referenced, but have never answered.
People always ask me questions such as, ‘Who is your favorite superhero?’, ‘Who is your favorite supervillain?’, ‘Who is your favorite comic book character?’, etcetera. This is a complex question, but I’ve always had my easy answers and I’ve maintained that I do know my list, but I’ve yet to note it on this site. In point of fact, there is such an wide array of comic book characters out there that it would be hard to make a list that was all inclusive, especially since my focus has been on superhero comics for much of my life. Instead, I am going to focus this on just a handful from a very specific category. Look forward to the big one (which will reiterate most, if not all, of these characters).
So, here they are, my personal top ten superhero comic book characters (heroes and villains) and why I love them:
Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman’s work on this character (who began as Marvelman… and may be Marvelman again… it’s a long story) have cemented the Miracleman comics as some of the finest examples of story-telling in the superhero genre. More than any other, these comics have influenced the way I approach superhero story-telling, which means that if you happen to be playing in a role-playing game that I’m running, maybe reading through Miracleman (which was recently collected by Marvel) to see where things could go.
9. Kid Quantum II
This spot fluctuated a bit as I went through who I really thought deserved it, but when really I thought about my favorite comic book stories from the past, the ‘re-boot’ Legion of Super-Heroes was the first thing that came to mind and the second Kid Quantum exemplifies what I loved about those books (including LSH and Legionnaires). Kid’s arc is just excellent, character-driven story-telling at its finest. She begins as a replacement for the first Legionnaire killed in duty, also her brother, as a member of a different team. She is forced to join the Legion and grows to hold her own, eventually developing into a leader of the team. I love the Legion, and Kid Quantum is everything I love about the Legion.
8. Captain Marvel
I guess a big part of this list is about character arcs and, the further I look through it, the more I realize that is something that just attracts me to specific comic books. For Carol Danvers, the arc of her story is fantastic! Beginning as the ‘girl Friday’ of the original Captain Marvel (the Marvel Comics one), she eventually gained powers and became Ms. Marvel; not quite a sidekick, but definitely not the equal of Cap. Despite having a decent run during the 1970s, Carol spent the 1980s and 1990s either de-powered, transformed, in space, or becoming an alcoholic (something that has become an important component of her character, in the modern age). Finally, Carol was allowed to return to glory as the original Ms. Marvel, but soon after, she took the title of her long-deceased mentor, calling herself Captain Marvel and becoming one of the leading Avengers).
7. Squirrel Girl
A more recent entry onto this list, I’ve always enjoyed the character of Doreen Green, a.k.a. Squirrel Girl, for the sheer weirdness, but her recent foray into a solo comic has catapulted the character to whole new heights. At some point, as the character began to appear more, it became a running joke that she could defeat the most dangerous menaces of the Marvel Universe (Doctor Doom, Thanos, etc.) on her own. With her newest series, The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (actually, her two latest series), it’s made clear that her skill as a superhero is no joke. She’s a fun, witty, competent hero whose stories embrace the strange, something I always love to see.
Created by the same writer who would go on to write The Walking Dead, Invincible is a series about a comic book universe through the eyes of the newest generation of heroes; specifically the son of that world’s equivalent of Superman. Mark Grayson, upon learning of his superpowers, is thrust into a fully-functioning superhero universe, but what is amazing about the series is that it spotlights how the superhero genre can be dysfunctional, doing so without diluting the importance of the heroes and villains, themselves. An amazing series from page one, I can’t recommend getting the collected editions enough!
5. Martian Manhunter
At some point, I really came to enjoy the character of J’onn J’onzz, also known as the Martian Manhunter. There was a series in the 1990s by John Ostrander and Tom Mandrake that was just amazing; exploring the depths of one of the least understood characters in the DC Universe. The result was that the character should be least understood because he is more alien than alien. Not only is he the last survivor of his race, but his race died off before humankind existed! Manhunter’s search for understanding the human condition seems to come, at the same time, from both superiority and inferiority, and this makes the character interesting and distinct.
Thanos was number 2 on this list for a long time, but recent storylines have dropped the character to a less lofty position. Nowadays, everyone knows who Thanos is, but there was a time that writers could get away with some crazy shit with the mutant Eternal from Titan. Take a look at the Thanos series by Jim Starlin and, later, Keith Giffen, and you’ll get an idea of why I love this character. Sadly, he has been relegated back to the role of nihilistic super-monster, which is where I find him kind of boring, to be honest.
Is it the fishnets? I guess it could be the fishnets. Regardless of my preferences for costuming choices, Zatanna is a complex character in her own right. Stepping from the shadow of her very famous (at least in the DCU) father, who sacrificed his life to save the world, Zatanna is immensely powerful and remarkably capable, but can still be intimidated by more experienced heroes into making mistakes. Her story includes one of learning to stand up for herself against those who think less of her. There will come a point where someone will make a Zatanna movie or television series and then everyone will love this character as much as me.
2. Rocket Raccoon
The film Guardians of the Galaxy was kind of redemptive for me. I’ve loved the character of Rocket Raccoon for years and years, but I never expected the rest of the world would ever agree. Rocket is a hero who doesn’t want to be a hero. All he wants to do is make his own way in the universe. Unfortunately, jerks keep hurting innocent people and that annoys Rocket, meaning he has to shoot those jerks with his ridiculously oversized weapons. I don’t have to tell anyone why I love Rocket Raccoon! It’s probably all the same reasons you do!
1. Beta Ray Bill
I’ve gone on time and time again about how much I love this character, but I’ve never really gone into why I love Beta Ray Bill. For a bullied kid, all of 8 years of age, growing up without a father or any real friends and a host of other issues, an alien that was willing to sacrifice everything in his former life to protect his people against an endless horde of demons had a certain appeal. He became an outcast among his own people, but knew that this would happen even as he volunteered to be transformed into the monstrous form. He lost the love of his life and his crushing loneliness can be felt even in his very first appearance. When the time came to stand alongside newfound allies in Thor, Odin, and the rest of the Asgardians, Bill did so without hesitation. As my sense of morality was developing, there weren’t a great deal of things that I encountered that spoke to me on a level I could comprehend, but the portrayal of Beta Ray Bill as an unceasing, warrior of honor was something that I could align with. I often credit comics with as the reason that I am relatively beneficial to society, but if I had to point to one example within that medium, Beta Ray Bill would be that example.
So, there’s something. I’ll drop in some links to purchase some of these stories, at some point, and republish this. Gotta have some way to beef up content, right!